I knew from childhood what I wanted, that was to be a
sailor, not any sailor but; a weapons specialist what’s called a
always had a good time in the Navy; it was a job with the benefits
of travel and seeing the world. Most days were boring especially
while at sea. I would take care of daily tasks, and work
assignments; the rest of the time was filled with practice fire
drills, man overboard, general quarters other emergency drills.
While this didn’t seem glamorous, I soon found out the importance of
all of my training.
When not busy I spent a lot of time looking at the
ocean. It seemed to stretch for ever. We could go months without
seeing anyone else or any sign of land. It was peaceful, quiet.
Nights were the best. I never thought about it until my first night
at sea, just how dark it could be without street lights or even a
moon. It was darkness like I never knew existed. There’s something
exciting about being out on deck with no moon, stars, or even a
little light. This was when my memories and senses took over. The
deck of a naval ship is a dangerous place even in daylight, more so
at night with nothing to guide your way. I would make it to the side
of ship and listen as the water smashes against the hull, and smell
the sea air and feel the salt water spray on to my face, while the
ship plows its way through the ocean.
In the summer of my sixth year was when the chance
came. I received an assignment to what seemed like every sailor
either wanted or feared the most. The men at my new duty station who
did not dress and at times not even look like they were military,
they were a step outside of the normal military chain of command. If
you saw them it would be hard to look into their eyes, there was
something different about them, a since of self-confidence and
pride. They were a band; a band of brothers bonded together tougher,
than any brothers I have ever known. They were Special Boat Units
part of naval special warfare who works closely with the U.S.Navy
S.E.A.L.S units. Only seven units were commissioned at the time.
This was to be my shore duty, no going back to sea
for two years. It was also a time of war and attacks on innocent
unarmed civilian oil tankers. It was March 10 1987 when the United
States entered in to what was called The Tanker Wars. Under the
name, Operation Earnest Will, eleven Kuwaiti oil tankers were
reflagged and manned by U.S. Merchant mariners. By doing so, they
came under the protection of the U.S.
The U.S. had set up what was to become the
first-of-their-kind Mobile sea bases, one called the Hercules and
the other Wimbrown 7. They were manned by special boat units for
patrol and escorts duties to stop and interdict Iran’s hostilities
on tankers, along with a small Marine attachment for guarding the
bases, this was in case any small craft got past the gunboats and an
attachment of Army night stalker helicopters also, called sea bats.
The four months I was on the barge I never did see one; they only
came out at night.
When our units first started to deploy it was my job
to train the temporary volunteer sailors on the weapons systems we
used. The temporary volunteer sailor that came from other commands.
These sailors were needed to help with shortage of man power, since
the units were meant for in-and-out operations and to back up
S.E.A.L. teams. We did not have the men needed for long deployments.
For me this was not good enough. Not only did I want to be back at
sea; but I wanted to feel needed and to accomplish something in my
life. So I gave up my shore duty and asked to be deployed, which was
granted. We were always on a short notice for deployment. I went
into work one day and did not come home for four months. My new
girlfriend, at the time, who became my wife and mother of two of my
children, always knew this day could come.
Finally we were able to make contact with home, only
to say we were okay. We never mention our locations. At one point,
my mom had contacted the Red Cross in hopes of finding out where I
was and if I was okay. The department of the Navy responded along
the lines of; “You should be proud, your son is doing fine and
serving his country well. Due to national security reason we cannot
give out any information on his location.”
Our main operation was to protect merchant shipping
from attacks by Iranian gunboats. We were day and night on our 65
foot Mark III gunboats looking for Iranian gunboats, floating mines,
and also as a shield for what had become our home.
There’s nothing like being on a 65 foot aluminum
hulled boat, in mine infested water, when it’s so dark out you can’t
even see with night vision equipment. We always figured if we found
a mine at night we would not be around in the morning to know about
For fun we would do what was called a high speed
cast. We would get the boats going as fast as possible and run from
the front and jump off the back. Water is not always as soft as a
person might think. Hitting at that speed was like falling on an icy
side walk or throwing yourself against a brick wall.
Here we were doing patrols and escorting tankers for
a month or more with what had became relative routine boredom; long
nights and days on patrol along with days full of work. Sleep was
something you wished for but received very little of.
I wanted some excitement like the detachment before
us had experienced for example, when two army night stalker
helicopters came under attack and sank three Iranian gunboats; in an
area that was supposed to be our gunboat patrol area. When our boats
arrived, they picked up the survivors of the attack. That unit also
took part in finding the Iranian mine laying ship Iran Agr, in the
act of deploying mines.
Then in late January 1988 we were supposed to meet up
with a convoy of tankers and escort them south, past the mind field
and area of patrolling boghammers and other Iranian gunboats. It was
late at night when we came to our rendezvous point around a small
island. The same island, three months earlier, Army sea bats had
sunk the three Iranian gunboats. We were told to check out two
possible contacts around the island. As we came closer our radar
picks up the contacts.
As we came around the island we started shooting off
.60 MM mortar illumination shells which would make night into day
depending on the round used would light up an area between 984-1,640
feet in diameters. It was nothing short of artificial sun light.
Now, after all those boring patrols, and what I felt were a waste of
time, this was it; the point when I knew it was all on the line.
Seems strange looking back, but I can still feel the rush and the
excitement of what could come. Never did I stop and think of what to
do, all my training took over my body, like some machine from with
inside of me. I never worried about where my brothers were. I knew
they were at their post, as I was.
At first, the men on the other boat kept holding up a
fish. Then they would act like they were picking up another one,
pretending they were fishing, but all we were seeing was just the
one fish. As I manned the forward .50 caliber machine gun mount, I
had the best view and knew if something happened; my brother’s lives
and the outcome of this night could depend on my actions. My eyes
were fixed on the two men who kept bending over. I was just waiting
for them to come back up one time with a rifle or rocket propelled
The Chief of the boat asked “Stanley see any
I would reply back “No Chief nothing”
We kept trying to move in closer while our sister
boat stayed back and watched over the other boat and also provided
back up for us. Every time we would move closer the other boats
would move. Finally, with the Army sea bats arriving and two more of
our gun boats on the way to help, the boats took. We kept our pace
with them for what seemed like hours, until they reached the safe
waters of the Iranian Exclusion Zone.
By the time we made it back to our rendezvous area,
the sun was just coming up over the horizon and we could see the
outline of the tankers with the sun shining off of them. No one
spoke a word nothing had to be said for we had done our jobs.
Even though many other incidents happened before my
tour was over, that night I realized everything was worth it. For
those men on the tankers had a peaceful night and a safe trip, never
knowing what went on or what was laying in wait for them had we not
been there to do our jobs. For me, I knew that I was no longer here
to play games or for excitement, this was very real. Every patrol,
every boring night and long day’s now meant something. Some people
say you’re brought into this world for one reason. I sometimes still
wonder if that was mine. I know the feelings I felt that morning and
they haven’t been felt by me since.
In writing this, it is my intent, to honor those that
came before me and those who serve with honor now and in the future.
For they, are the unspoken. Best kept secret of the U.S.Navy.